Sunday, March 15, 2015

Second Chances: What is DIVERSION in NY?


Diversion (from Websters): : 
1.  the act or an instance of diverting from a course, activity, or use :  deviation <bad weather forced the diversion of several flights>
2. something that diverts or amuses :  pastime
3. an attack or feint that draws the attention and force of an enemy from the point of the principal operation
4. British :  a temporary traffic detour

Unfortunately, that doesn't answer our legal question. 

Here's the relevant definition:   In the NY state court system, a "Diversion program" is one where a Defendant charged with a crime can complete a program or complete a task in return for a reduced sentence offer by the District Attorney's Office and the Court.

Diversion programs vary from NY county to NY county.  I will give examples of Tompkins County Diversion programs, Broome County Traffic Ticket Reduction programs, Chemung County reduction programs, and Tioga County Diversion programs.  There's just too many to cover them all. 


Felony Diversion:  (governed by Criminal Procedure Law, s. 216.00, 216.05)

Who is Eligible?:  Any person charged in an indictment or superior court information (SCI) with a Class B, C, D, or E felony offense (as well as some other specific crimes). 

Who is NOT Eligible?:  If in the PAST 10 years, you have been locked up for any reason, had previously committed a "VIOLENT FELONY", or committed a Class A felony offense is NOT eligible for felony level diversion.  

Also, you are NOT eligible is you have been deemed a "second violent felony offender" or a "persistent violent felony offender."  However, somebody who is EXCLUDED for the above reasons may be allowed with the prosecutor's consent.  

....So here's how it boils down -- if you have a serious criminal history (especially with violent crime), the prosecutor and the court as less likely to give you the benefit of the doubt and allow you a chance to reduce your sentence in a diversion program.  The thinking is that you have previously been given chances to change your life and you failed --so now it's time to "pay the check." 

Tompkins County Diversion Programs

Ithaca City Drug Treatment Court: 
(meets Tuesdays at 11am, usually)

There is a Tompkins County Drug and Alcohol Treatment Court that is run out of Ithaca City Court; however, defendants from all over Tompkins County may have the opportunity to enroll if the situation is right --and the District Attorney's Office agrees. 

The program is usually 1 to 2 years depending on how well the person does. The Court requires you to do a whole list of things from attending sobriety meetings, to checking in with the probation dept., to allowing searches of your home and other places, and attending weekly court meetings.  

The incentive to participate is that UPON FULL COMPLETION of the program, the original charges are reduced to (typically) non-criminal violations like Disorderly Conduct etc.  The plea offer will be specific as to what the prosecutor will reduce the charges to and it must be in writing and filed with the court. 

If you fail to follow the rules while on the program, the presiding judge (as of now, the Hon. Scott Miller) can put court sanctions on you, including jail time.  If you fail the entire program and the judge thinks you are a lost cause to complete it, then he will sentence you under the charge to which you originally pled.  Usually there is a year of jail hanging over your head and it will be imposed if the judge thinks it appropriate.

For example, I had a client who was charged with MANY counts of Petit Larceny (a Class A misdemeanor) for stealing things to make an opiate substitute.  In other words, my client was a serious opiate addict that could not afford oxycodone so he resorted to making his own substitute from poppy seeds.  He was a confessed drug addict and wanted to participate in the ICTC program and Assistant District Attorney agreed.  

Ultimately, his charges were reduced from 10 counts of Class A misdemeanors to 2 counts of Disorderly Conduct (both violations) upon successful completion of the Ithaca City Drug Treatment Court.  In this case, if successful, my client would NOT have a criminal record and would get the treatment he needed.  

However, these programs can be very hard for real addicts to complete given the nature of drug addiction.  But in the case where fighting the original charges is hopeless from a legal standpoint, these programs give people a chance to turn it around with support from the court. 

Here's info about the ICTC: 

Primary Contact:
DARLENE DESMOND, Resource Coordinator II
Phone: 607-216-6604 (Tompkins County Court) 
Phone: 607-216-6660 (Ithaca City Courthouse)
Fax: 212-952-6461 (Ithaca City Courthouse)

Additional Contacts:
RONNA J. COLLINS , Chief Clerk Ithaca City Court 
Phone. 607-216-6660 (Ithaca City Courthouse)

Mailing Address:
Ithaca Community Treatment Court
Main office at Tompkins County Court 
320 North Tioga Street 

Ithaca, New York 14850

Link for ICTC: HERE

Tompkins County Felony Drug Court
Tompkins County Courthouse 2015

This program is very similar to the City Court program, but it is with felony level offenders out of Tompkins County Supreme Court.  

Also this program is governed by NY law, Penal Law s. 216.00 / 216.05, since it is for serious crimes. 

There are many rules, phases, and details to this program as well.  They can be found HERE.

Tompkins County Traffic Ticket Reduction Program

Sadly, it does not exist.  Tompkins County does NOT have a formal traffic ticket reduction program like many other counties.  However, local attorneys, like myself, that are familiar with the prosecutors in the county can usually get a reduction of a traffic ticket (in most circumstances).   

It is in your best interest to call me or some other local attorney for Tompkins County Traffic Tickets.  

Broome County Traffic Ticket Reduction Program

Broome County DOES have a ticket reduction program.  Here is the information from the Broome County website...(with some supplied emphasis from me)

Description of the Program:

     Upon acceptance to the program a motorist will be given 60 days to complete a 6 hour traffic safety course approved by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.  This course may be completed in a traditional classroom format, or online.  After the motorist successfully completes the course, he or she will receive a certificate of completion from the course, a copy of which must then be forwarded to the District Attorney's Office within the 60 days.  There will be a $150 non-refundable application fee for admittance to the diversion program.

 Eligibility Requirements:

     To be eligible to enter the traffic diversion program, a motorist must meet the following eligibility requirements:

1.  The motorist must not have previously completed the Broome County Traffic Diversion Program within the preceeding 18 months.

2.  If currently charged with a speeding offense, the motorist must have no previous speeding convictions within the preceeding 18 months.

3.  The motorist must not have been involved in a motor vehicle crash at the time the motorist received the ticket that he/she is seeking to have dismissed.

4.  The motorist must have received only one ticket at the time the motorist was stopped.  (For example, if a motorist was pulled over on January 18, 2012 and at that time received a ticket for speeding and a ticket for failure to maintain lane, that motorist is not eligible for this program.)

5.  If the ticket the motorist wishes to have dismissed is a speeding ticket, it must be for driving less than 25 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.

6.  The motorist must not have had his/her license suspended for failing to answer the ticket he/she seeks to have dismissed through the diversion program.

7.  The motorist must have answered and plead not guilty to the ticket prior to the return/due date listed on the ticket.

8.  The motorist must not have missed any scheduled court appearances without prior approval from the judge.  If accepted to the Diversion program, the motorist must continue to make any scheduled court dates unless excused by the judge.

9.  The motorist must not have been convicted for, or plead guilty to the offense for which you seek dismissal via the diversion program.  (The ticket must be currently pending in a local court, this program may not be entered for old tickets for which the motorist has already plead guilty).

...[More details found on the website]


Broome County has a great traffic ticket reduction program.  It's short.  It's flexible.  It reduces tickets that might other INCREASE YOUR CAR INSURANCE (note: any speeding ticket 15 mph over the limit shall increase your car insurance, NY Insurance Law).

If you have a Broome County traffic ticket, call an attorney to deal with the problem.  There are many steps involved in making sure the process goes smoothly.  

PLEASE NOTE:  You must submit the "NOT GUILTY" form by the deadline on the Uniform Traffic Ticket to be eligible.  This is a perfect example of why calling a lawyer for a traffic ticket can really save you frustration and money (raised insurance costs for 3 years).


There is NO formal program.  Again, it is in your best interest to call a lawyer to deal with a Chemung County Traffic Ticket.  

This is the link for the application to the Chemung County District Attorney's Office --HOWEVER, I caution you NOT to use it.  


If you complete the linked form as provided by the DA, anything you write can be used against you if you dislike their offer of reduction.  That's why having an attorney fill out the form protects you from admitting to doing anything.  This is such a simple thing, but I see people get burned by it on a frequent basis.  

Remember Miranda Rights from LAW AND ORDER -- "anything you say [or write], CAN and WILL be used against you in a court of law" --even on a traffic ticket.  


Again, no formal program offered.  Similar to Chemung, the District Attorney's Office expects you to fill out some forms and hope for the best.  

Here are the forms: 




You've already admitted to doing something by mailing in the forms themselves.  Don't make this mistake.  Have a lawyer represent you and keep the points on your license low and protect against raising your car insurance premiums.  Saves you both time and money.  

Note:  In New York, if you get 11 points on your New York license, it will be suspended.  


Diversion programs are complex and varied from county to county.  If you are charged with a crime or a traffic ticket, your chances of getting a good result increase exponentially if you have a knowledgeable attorney defending you.  

If you have question on this post or anything else, please don't hesitate to contact me.   

BY:  Attorney Mike Cyr 

P:  607-229-5184
Twitter:   @ithacadwi